When I was a kid, my brother and I would pretend to be Colonial Marines, fighting off hordes of Xenomorphs like in James Cameron’s Aliens. And despite Aliens’ huge influence on video games there really hasn’t been a good Aliens video game. Sure, there’s Alien: Isolation, but no video game has really captured the feeling of being a badass Colonial Marine like we saw in James Cameron’s seminal film. Free League Publishing’s Alien The Roleplaying Game does such a good job translating Alien from film to tabletop role-playing game, when I found out there would be a Cinematic scenario based around playing a squad of Colonial Marines, I couldn’t have been more excited. And it turns out Destroyer of Worlds does not disappoint.
In Destroyer of Worlds, penned by sci-fi author Andrew E.C. Gaska (who also wrote Chariot of the Gods) you play as Charlie Team—a group of Marines thrown together to hunt down four AWOL Marines who may have made off with stolen intelligence. This isn’t just another bug hunt—these marines are somewhere in the colony, and they’re dangerous. Finding them might not be too easy, they have an entire colony in which to hide, and there’s a group of Weyland-Yutani dog catchers after them too. The imminent arrival of an invasion fleet further complicates things. Oh yeah, and there’s something lurking in the shadows, something with sharp claws and metal teeth.
Destroyer of Worlds feels a little more open-ended than the previous Cinematic scenario, Chariot of the Gods. It’s definitely not as claustrophobic—where Chariot of the Gods took place in cramped spacecraft corridors, Destroyer of Worlds takes place in a colony on the frozen moon of Ariarcus. The AWOL fugitive marines have a lot of places to hide, and may even be getting help from local insurgents. The product description on the Free League Publishing website describes it as “a gauntlet of one hell after another” and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. But the seven pre-generated characters that make up Charlie Team are the best at what they do, and come armed to the teeth– which is good, because they’ll need all the help they can get against insurgents, invading soldiers, and xenomorphs.
One of Alien the Roleplaying Game’s defining characteristics are its hidden agendas, which play a big role in these one-shot modules, which are dubbed Cinematic scenarios. Destroyer of Worlds is no different, and even though you’re playing as part of a marine squad, each of them has their own personal goals to accomplish. Destroyer of Worlds adds an extra layer to this mechanic with the new addition of Story Cards—at certain points during the gameplay, certain characters will be handed direct instructions on how their character should proceed. This takes a bit away from agency in regards to role-playing, and coupled with Player Agendas and the Stress/Panic mechanic (the higher your stress, the more likely your character will panic and do something harmful), can make it feel a little bit more like a board game than a role-playing game. But these mechanics are what shapes Alien The Roleplaying Game into something that feels like a truly cinematic experience.
Destroyer of Worlds is a pretty big module, and it comes with a lot of accoutrements: there’s a full map of the colony, player handouts, and a deck of cards that have the AWOL marines, NPCs your characters will run into, and some weapons and vehicles that were introduced in Destroyer of Worlds. The physical edition of Destroyer of Worlds is gorgeous, and extremely sturdy. Like the Starter Set the actual scenario booklet is covered with a softcover, but an extremely thick one. The player handouts and large map are made out of a similar material, and have definitely held up to my repeated handling. I just wish the PDF version was made with such care.
The digital copy of Destroyer of Worlds definitely gives you everything you need to play the game, but I have an issue with the way the deck of cards is handled. It was like this in the Starter Set as well, and may be done for printing purposes, but the card fronts and backs are given as two separate PDF files. The cards are labelled clearly, but it’s a pain sifting through a long, thin PDF file to find what you’re looking for.
The book itself is organized like the previous Cinematic Scenarios. Destroyer of Worlds has nearly 40 pages dedicated to locations alone, with maps for the GM inside the book that often give more information than the player handouts. Not only are there many potential locations for players to explore, but the scope is larger—the aliens are just one concern against insurgents and invasion forces. Each of the three acts has different objectives as your marine squad has to adapt to the changing situation.
Destroyer of Worlds is the closest I’ve come to recreating the excitement of Aliens. No video game has yet to do it justice, but Free League Publishing knows exactly how to invoke that sense of dread, discovery, and outright horror that can only come from Alien. Get on the ready line marines, because Destroyer of Worlds is going to require some absolute badasses.
Destroyer of Worlds is a standalone scenario, but you’ll need the Alien The Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook or Starter Set to play. If you haven’t already picked it up, you can check out our review of the Core Rulebook here and the Starter Set here.
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